Each year, ERA cycles in a new Chairman and Board, bringing new perspectives while ensuring continuity with three-year member terms. At the D2C Convention last month, Elliott Segal officially ended his term as chairman, having spearheaded the association’s embrace of digital marketing channels and other strategic initiatives. Chris Reinmuth, vice president of Midmarket Sales at Meritus Payment Solutions, now takes over, promising an activist term.
Reinmuth is ERA’s first chairman from the payment-processing industry, and plans to expand the association’s advocacy to meet the growing regulatory pressure on payment processing. Reinmuth will expand upon Segal’s initiatives to tap new markets and “grow the association into a more digitally relevant association that understands the ever-changing needs of our customers,” he says. “My No. 1 goal is to position our association as the group that will be the leader in direct response for another 25 years.”
Supporting Reinmuth in that goal is a cross-section of some of the industry’s most seasoned experts and entrepreneurs who have the drive to make ERA succeed for decades to come. Again this year, Electronic Retailer reached out to new and returning Board members to discuss their reasons behind serving, the key issues they hope to address this year, and what they believe ERA must do to ensure future growth. Here’s what they had to say.
ER: As a new Board member, what goals have you set for your tenure?
Shannon M. Moyer: To contribute in a meaningful way by offering a fresh perspective. I believe my experience as associate general counsel at QVC—where I have been intimately involved in government affairs activities for several years and have worked on a variety of legislative/regulatory issues such as online sales tax and privacy/consumer protection—will allow me to bring a useful and unique perspective to the Board.
ER: What inspired you to serve on the Board?
Katie Williams: Since my early days in DRTV—way back in the dinosaur age [before] online marketing—I have recognized the importance of a trade organization that provides a voice on behalf of the reputable companies in our industry. The work that ERA does today on behalf of the electronic retailing, home shopping, and DRTV industry is vital.
Moyer: To gain a perspective of how other electronic retailers—of different sizes, with different product offerings, and using different means of marketing—view and address common issues and obstacles.
Collette Liantonio: I wanted to serve on the Board to help acknowledge and spearhead the new mission. The DRTV industry must embrace contemporary media methods in order to stay current and modern. We have to evolve with the times in order to stay successful, and embrace mainstream media.
Richard Wechsler: I believe that the association [can] make a difference to the membership, and that I [can] help guide that. This is a very exciting time for ERA, and it’s a privilege to be a part of stewarding that change.
ER: What impressions did you come away with after your first year on the Board?
Jane Dyer: I was truly impressed with the incredible group of passionate leaders working hard to shape the ever-evolving industry. It has been an amazing opportunity to learn, contribute, and share my experience and industry knowledge. Until you get involved, it is hard to understand how many issues ERA touches, and how vital the organization is to industry growth.
Liantonio: After my first year on the Board, we realized the importance of contemporary media methods and worked together to utilize new media strategies. It is imperative that we continue to embrace new media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and so on in order to create a higher-performance hybrid, integrating DRTV practices with interactive Web-based marketing.
Christopher Hearing: While ERA has challenges ahead of it as our industry continues to evolve, I’ve been pleased to see that the management team understands those challenges and is committed to overcoming them. There is a clear sense of purpose on the Board and among the management team that evolution is critical to our long-term success.
Wechsler: The most lasting impression after serving my first year on the ERA Board is how much the association does.
Babak Azad: Given that as an industry, we needed to make a pretty aggressive shift, I was pleased with the Board’s and staff’s desire and responsiveness to do so. It won’t happen overnight, but if you look at the agenda for this year’s D2C event, I think the sessions scheduled are reflective of this shift. I am a firm believer that in a world that is rapidly changing, you have to be a part of that change—or else it will happen to you as opposed to with you.
ER: How do you feel your involvement has benefited ERA members?
Liantonio: I’ve been in business for more than 30 years, earning wisdom in the direct response industry; I know who we are and what we’re about. When you couple that with my entrepreneurial spirit and my thirst for technological trends, I am an asset to the Board as we try new things to build and expand our industry. Just recently, I helped initiate the PR Council for ERA.
Hearing: I participated in both stages of the Strategic Plan development over the past year. While [ERA President] Julie [Coons] and her team did the bulk of the work, I was able to put my planning skills to use to help guide the process and ask the right questions along the way to make sure we came away with an actionable plan that will propel ERA forward.
Azad: My biggest priority was helping drive the emphasis toward digital. [The fact] that a number of Board members were pushing this initiative so strongly drove this shift.
Williams: I’ve owned leading businesses in different sides of the industry—on the agency side, the client side, and both the domestic and international sides. I understand the issues of all these different business segments, and can represent their viewpoints. I’m also passionate about embracing the digital marketing world—an important focus of ERA.
Wechsler: Members benefit [from] the entire Board and ERA staff. I can’t single myself out. But I can say that this Board is very passionate, and committed to challenging the association to be better in all areas.
ER: What do you think is the Board’s most significant accomplishment of the last year?
Dyer: Recognizing that the industry is evolving into an omnichannel environment and what strategies can we put into place to be more valuable to its members.
Liantonio: We are embracing new media, new technology, and new beginnings in order to ensure our industry grows. We are changing the perception of DRTV and becoming a visionary element in multichannel campaigns.
Hearing: The Board has pushed the management team to address the long-term challenges facing our industry. Industry evolution presents a unique opportunity for ERA to get in front of the change and lead members through education and communication. Our members will [have seen] tangible evidence of our evolution at the D2C Convention as we address this evolution head-on with a focus on digital transformation.
Williams: You’ll see the Board’s emphasis on multichannel reflected in the educational tracks for D2C. ERA’s educational programs have always been strong. At every session, I get at least five profit-generating ideas for my company. I only wish I had time to attend all the sessions.
Wechsler: The Board’s success is represented by the association’s accomplishments. Legislatively, it may have been our successful efforts to have the FCC maintain its current negative-option rules—that was really important. In terms of events, the D2C Convention, The Great Ideas Summit, and the Government Affairs Fly-In were successful on all levels. We’ve made significant strides in content.
ER: What do you see as the most important issues ahead for ERA?
Dyer: It is important that ERA remains a relevant organization and we need to focus on ways to increase the membership. We need to remain vigilant in our self-regulation programs and advocacy on Capitol Hill.
Moyer: I see the potential for expansive and potentially overreaching regulation to be a key issue for ERA and its members, particularly in the areas of consumer privacy and data protection. While additional regulations are well-intended, they can often have unintended consequences that adversely affect retailers and consumers alike. It is crucial for ERA to partner with regulators to ensure that regulators understand the implications of proposed regulations, and that such regulations are tailored in such a way to achieve their commendable goals without imposing undue burdens.
Hearing: In addition to the changing nature of our industry, the expanding footprint of the regulatory environment is a threat to all of us. The Department of Justice’s Operation Choke Point poses a very serious risk to our service providers and as a result, poses a serious threat to all marketers. Even if a company is doing everything the right way, it is easy to foresee becoming entangled in a regulatory net due to the actions of a completely unrelated company that doesn’t play by the rules.
Azad: We can’t forget about our government legislation efforts, which are a crucial part of maintaining our ability to market, while we continue to adapt in the TV, digital, and retail worlds where we market to our customers.
Wechsler: Supporting and strengthening ERSP, our self-regulatory program, is a critical issue that can’t be taken for granted. In terms of education, the association needs to lead membership into the digital age. And I believe we need to set up mechanisms to allow the membership to speak directly to the association and the Board.
Williams: Counterfeits have cost the businesses in our industry hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. I would like to see more companies join our small but determined Anti-Counterfeiting Committee. Regulatory agencies have heightened their activity, and it’s imperative that ERA’s advocacy continues and strengthens. And ERA should lead the charge in establishing self-regulation guidelines for the online world.
Our industry is in a time of transition. Channel dilution and changes in TV viewership have resulted in lower ROIs from TV advertising, but at the same time, it’s difficult to generate an equivalent impact on awareness and sales via digital media. Our members are eager to find ways to thrive in a multichannel environment.
ERA’s 2014–2015 Board
Chairman of the Board: Chris Reinmuth, vice president of Midmarket Sales, Meritus Payment Solutions
Outgoing Chairman: Elliot Segal, vice president, International Products, Guthy-Renker, LLC
President and CEO: Julie Coons
Chairman-Elect: Gregory J. Sater, partner, Venable LLP
Secretary: Patty Booth, president, Thane Direct Canada, Inc.
Treasurer: Brian Archibald, president, Provida Life Sciences
Babak Azad, senior vice president, Media & Acquisition, Beachbody, LLC
Gerald A. Bagg, CEO, Quigley-Simpson
Jeff Campbell, chief operating officer, UFC Fit
Jane Dyer, vice president, Merchandising, HSN, Inc.
Christopher Hearing, president, Direct Holdings Global
Poonam Khubani, vice president, TeleBrands International
Collette Liantonio, president, Concepts TV Productions, Inc.
Brandon Lewis, president, EvTech
Shannon Moyer, associate general counsel, QVC, Inc.
Marina Randolph, Murad, Inc.
Richard Wechsler, president and CEO, Lockard & Wechsler
Mike Wells, director, Zestify Media, Ltd. (ERA Europe Representative)
Katie Williams, president, Ideal Living